Billy Pierce and Paul Konerko acquired … Frank Thomas voted MVP … Nov. 10 May be the greatest day in the off-season history of the Chicago White Sox.
And this isn’t even counting the birthday of Jimmy Dkyes in 1899.
Dykes was the greatest third baseman in Sox history until Robin Ventura came along and went on to manage and win more games than any other bench boss in franchise history.
Because Konerko led the White Sox to a World Series, I rank his acquisition as the most signficant event on this date followed by the Pierce pickup and Frank’s MVP.
The only thing that could make this day any more noteworthy was that if we all opened our newsfeeds to “Sox sign …”
Here’s a look at this day in White Sox history in my order of significance …
1998: PAULIE ARRIVES
On this date in 1998, the White Sox picked up Konerko from the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Mike Cameron.
This deal started out as an exchange of emerging and somewhat puzzling prospects but soon morphed into one of the greatest trades in the 118-year history of the White Sox. This despite the fact that Cameron did evolve into one of he more exciting players in the game for a time.
However, it took another trade for Cameron to blossom while Konerko became a fixture and a legend on the Southside.
“Paulie” immediately endeared himself to Sox fans by homering in his debut with the club on Opening Day 1999 in Seattle.
Konerko steadily won the respect of the Sox faithful until he became an all-out icon in 2005 when he led the team to its first World Series title since 1917. He played a huge part in that run with a stellar regular season, the MVP Award in the American League Championship Series and, of course, the grand slam in Game 2 of the World Series sweep of Houston.
His career with the Sox culminated when his No. 14 was retired by the Sox in 2015.
On Konerko Day, Paulie referred to Sox fans as his “friends” thus cementing his spot on the franchise’s Mount Rushmore for eternity.
1948: PIERCE COMES ABOARD
On this date in 1948, the Sox executed one of the great trades in franchise history when they grabbed Pierce (along with $10,000), a left-handed pitcher, from the Detroit Tigers for catcher Aaron Robinson.
It was the first trade executed by general manager Frank Lane and it couldn’t have gone any better.
Pierce went on to become one of the best White Sox pitchers ever and was honored as such when his No. 19 was retired in 1987. Robinson, meanwhile, was a regular for only two seasons and his non-descript career ended after the 1951 campaign.
Pierce was a rock during the White Sox’s “Go Go” era, winning 186 games with a club-record 1,796 strikeouts between 1949 and 1961.
A four-time All-Star (and three-time starter), the Detroit native was a two-time 20-game winner, led the A.L. in strikeouts in 1953 and in complete games in each season between 1956 and 1958 and ERA in 1955 (1.97).
The class act is also remembered for his rivalry with the Yankees’ Whitey Ford during the 1950s. The aces went head-to-head frequently between 1953 and 1960 many times in front of packed houses in the Bronx or at Comiskey Park. Pierce went 8-6 against Ford and was victorious in his last three matchups against the future Hall of Famer.
Pierce’s best game may have come June 27, 1958 when he retired 26 consecutive Washington Senators before 11,300 at Comiskey Park. Pinch-hitter Ed Fitzgerald ruined Pierce’s date with destiny and denied him just the second perfect game in Sox annals by delivering a double to right field. Pierce struck out the next batter to notch the 3-0 complete game victory.
Following the 1961 season, Pierce was shipped to San Francisco in a six-player deal. He pitched three years with the Giants before retiring after the 1964 season.
One of the nicest people ever to don the Sox yarns, Pierce, who died in 2015, remained one of the most popular figures at Comiskey Park in retirement.
1993: IT’S UNANIMOUS … FRANK IS THE BEST!
Frank Thomas put a capper on his monster 1993 campaign when he was unanimously voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player in results released on this date by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Thomas joined Nellie Fox (1959) and Dick Allen (1972) as the only Sox players to win this award.
The “Big Hurt” became just the 10th big leaguer to win the award unanimously and the first since the A’s Jose Canseco did it in 1988.
Let’s face it, this award was a signal to the world that Thomas was one of the elite performers in the game.
It was an amazing season for the disciplined Thomas, who played 150 games at first base in leading the White Sox to the American League West Division title.
Thomas hit .317 with a club-record 41 home runs and 128 RBIs and logged an amazing 112 walks against just 54 strikeouts. Thomas finished sixth in the A.L. in average, third and home runs and second in RBIs.